Argo. By Ben Affleck


Before today I honestly can’t think of anything I would have had to say about Ben Affleck, good or particularly bad.  He’s one of those Hollywood A-Listers that just doesn’t feature on my radar.  Dunno why, he’s been (starred) in enough half decent movies to make an impression.  And a lot of turkeys.  A journeyman pro I guess would be my description.

Not any more.

Because Ben Affleck can direct.  Boy can he direct.

Argo is tight as a drum from start to finish, features one of the most suspenseful scenes (more of a reel than a scene) that I’ve ever seen and he commands the screen as the movie’s star in such a low key way that he’s almost not there.  And yet he is. Resoundingly.

Argo is almost immaculately conceived, scripted, edited, sound-tracked and acted.  There are laugh out loud moments and moments of such supreme tension you just can’t bear to watch.  The resolution is extraordinarily moving for two reasons.  It’s majestically underplayed and the music is perfectly pitched.

The ensemble cast of six hostages, Affleck, John Goodman (back on form with some right good lines), Brian Cranston (making a bid to be America’s oldest acting superstar), Alan Arkin (really?  really is that Alan Arkin?) and a bunch of smaller parts play their parts universally well.

But this is all about Ben Affleck at the end of the day.  His third director’s role proper has nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for best Movie, director, supporting actor (Arkin),  and screenplay; of these surely Director is within range and maybe best movie.

Anyway, my advise is, go see it and make your own mind up because IMHO this is an outstanding movie only equaled by The Master and End of Watch in 2012 (that I’ve seen).

Everything that The Master lacks in plot terms Argo delivers in spades.  Argo doesn’t have the impact of a Seymour Hoffman or Joaquin Pheonix performance but it is none the worse for it.


Cyclo aquaplaning

Bradley Gormo

I went out for my last “big run” of the year to unwelcoming grey skies.  Eight of us made it up for the 9:01 ride from Dalmeny to Torphicen (in the hills above Linlithgow) All went well to our half way coffee and bacon roll stop but as we sat espousing the virtues of Sir Wiggo the rain started.

By the time we re-strode our carbon shafts to cries of “Oooohhh I really SHOULD have go that seat cover for Christmas” the downpour was becoming a deluge and the 17 miles home took on ferocious natural challenges.  We’d already taken on a 20mph headwind so at least we were helped home but the puddles became deeper and deeper, browner and browner.  I nearly missed a corner at the hump back bridge just outside Linlithgow and was chatting to Roddy about whether or not you could “aquaplane on a bike” when I aquaplaned on a bike.

Well, fuck me if that wasn’t scary.

I was belting it down a downwardish slope doing at least 25mph (that’s about 45kph for you cyclists out there) when I hit a brown puddle at the side of a field that covered 3/4 of the road and was at least 6″ deep.  To say the bike veered as the change in speed coupled with 20mph gusts of side on wind impacted on my forward trajectory would be an underestimate.  The wheel certainly lost contact with the road but I stayed on board and disaster was averted.

Bring on next week!

Cinema Verite. It’s true!


In 1971 an all American family from Santa Barbara in California were chosen, seemingly at random, to take part in a TV experiment.  It was to become the world’s first reality TV show called “An American Family” and its stars, the Loud family – both by name and at times by nature, were to become national phenomena.

But to get to legendary status the show’s producer, Craig Gilbert, had a pretty hard sell to the board of TV company PBS who were reluctant, to say the least, to commit to the show and began to baulk at the cost of production as the film stock costs (in particular) began to mount.

Their concern was about the “view-ability” of the show and whether it would find an audience.  They needn’t have worried because what gradually emerged was a tale of a swinging misogynist father (Tim Robbins), a hopeless and helpless (but sultry in Gilbert’s opinion) Mom played brilliantly by Diane Lane and a screamingly gay son, Lance, played gleefully by Thomas Dekker.  Not to mention a looky-likey Rolling Stones band fronted by the other two boys.

But it’s what’s going on in the mind of Producer Gilbert (played masterfully by James Gandolfini with a very unlikely full beard and absolutely no gangster element whatsoever to draw on) that is the meat of the movie.  Well, I say a movie but it’s actually a documentary set within a drama, about a reality TV documentary that turns out larger than life than any drama.

At points we see side by side comparisons between the “real” family and the 2011 actors.  It’s uncanny.


Gandolfini manipulates all sides as he makes the “action” more and more interesting but in doing so contributes to the family meltdown and the confidence of his crew.  It’s teriffic.

I don’t think this ever made it to cinema, it’s an HBO production, but it’s great and I saw it last night on Sky Atlantic so is likely to be repeated at some time.  If it is tune in because it’s a little gem.

My kinda tax avoidance


We’ve berated Starbucks et al.  Now let’s hear it for the honest cheat.  We applaud you senor.

A theatre (Quim Marce’s theater in the town of Bescano – north of Barcelona) in Spain was going bust because he Spanish government raised tax on theatre tickets to 21% with the result that punters were giving up on going out.  It was a peseta too far.

But Quim Marce (the owner) spotted a loophole whilst on a trip to his local market.

The humble, grubby carrot; donkey food down the old Iberian peninsula has given the tax man a sidestep and comes in at a mere 4%.

So, cue a change in pricing strategy down the old Quim Marce Theatre.  You no longer buy theatre tickets,  you buy carrots (for the same price as before) and gain free entry to the theatre as a thank you.


His season next year will compose of

  • Romeo and Julienne,
  • The Importance of Being Par-boiled,
  • Death of a Carrot Salesman,
  • A Streetcar Named Desiree (potato and baby carrot salad),
  • Glengarry Glenross variety,
  • Speed the Plow,
  • View from a Bridge by the Allotment,

The Wainwright dynasty

Jeana and I saw Rufus Wainwright at the Usher Hall last night and he was very good in parts.  His piano based torch singing always hit the mark but the sound for his full band numbers was sometimes mixed a little to murkily losing the power of his vocals.  Anyway the highlight of the evening was the performance of two Kate McGarrigal numbers by members of Wainwright’s backing band as a tribute to his departed mother.

One by the uniquely voiced Krystle Warren.

The other by the imperious Teddy Thomson (son of Richard and Linda).

The night ended in a Bacchanalian gay orgy involving members of the audience angels, death, Wainwright in a togo all lubed up and a singing sandwich.  You had to be there.  Terrific fun. For me this number was the highlight of Rufus’s set.

Fear of clowns (and Santas)

As demonstrated vividly by my pal Jackie’s son Tom.

Sorry Tom.

(He’s 18 now)

His Mum (the seemingly lovely Jackie in her public persona) apparently brings the photo out every year and the whole family piss themselves laughing.  It certainly made my night when I saw it for the first time.

I, frankly, empathise with the Gregory Peck’s

jackies santa son terror